I’ve decided to write a series of posts about renting a flat or house in Fukuoka. I have professional experience handling disputes between landlords and tenants as well as personal experience renting a room or house both at home and abroad, which could give you some insight into the rental housing market and practices in Japan.
Characteristics of the Japanese market/practice
In my experience, one of the characteristics of the rental housing market in Japan is its inflexibility. For example, house or room sharing is not common, and subletting is usually prohibited. Private transactions between landlords and tenants can rarely be seen, and people in most cases go house-hunting via a real property agency. Even with an online platform, we still have to contact an agency to reach a landlord.
One of the characteristics of rental housing in Japan is that tenants move into a new flat/house where without any furniture. You will have to prepare everything from a refrigerator to a bed. Meanwhile, as flooring, wallpaper, tatami mat, etc. are replaced with new ones, tenants can enjoy a clean and fresh residential environment in their new residence. Furthermore, a guarantor is typically required, for whom a credit check is done more carefully than it is for the tenant himself/herself.
The above arguments apply to a usual route used by the vast majority of Japanese, and they might not apply to the international market within Japan (there appears to be a small market for foreign residents). Airbnb, which I am not familiar with, is a platform for tourists and is out of the scope of this topic.
Shiki-kin and Shiki-biki
From a legal point of view, there remains a business custom regarding deposit (shiki-kin) in some regions in Japan. In normal practice, a deposit must be returned to the tenant upon their leaving the premise to the extent that some are left after being set off against, say, outstanding rent and/or repair costs for damages caused by the tenant.
However, a deposit called shiki-biki is not returned as it is deemed as an amount equivalent to future repair costs upon entering into the tenancy agreement. As you may realize, shiki-biki is not a deposit at all. The problem lies in the usage of the term, which the concerned parties often mix up with. It is said that this custom remains more in Western Japan, including Fukuoka but has been going out of fashion.
The validity of shiki-biki once became an issue at the Supreme Court, and in 2011 was decided to be legal as long as it is a reasonable amount, depending on the circumstances. It means that if shiki-biki is too large, there is a chance to claim a refund in part.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure that the information on this article is accurate at the time of posting, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ. If you do require advice or wish to find out more about the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.